The problem of evil has been a question that philosophers have been trying to answer for centuries. It simply states that if God exists and is perfect and all-powerful then why evil does exist in our world. Two great philosophers named Gottfried Leibniz and Nicolas Malebranche attempt to answer this question with their own unique solutions. Although they both answer the same question they have drastically different views. Specifically, they disagree on whether or not this world could be the best possible world God created. In this paper, I plan to dissect both men’s solutions to the problem of evil and furthermore argue for Leibniz’s solution that this is the best possible world that God could have created.
Before I begin going through these philosopher’s solutions it’s important to understand first why they believed evil was a problem. The problem of evil has been commonly regarded as the main argument for atheism. The argument stems from the logic that if God is a perfect being and created everything; how can evil exist? The atheist will try and argue that God and evil are incompatible with one another which as a result must mean that God cannot exist since evil does. (Murray). However, if we conclude that God does exist then how does a perfect being who has the power to create everything in the universe, then why has this God created evil? Is it possible that God could potentially be the author of evil? These questions set the stage for our philosophers to propose potential solutions to why an all-powerful God could create or allow evil to exist in our world. Leibniz has two potential solutions to these questions that he classifies as the Holiness Problem and the Underachiever Problem (Murray).
As I mentioned earlier the Holiness Problem is asking how a perfect being can create evil. Before Leibniz, philosophers had disregarded this problem on the fact that evil was a physical thing (Murray). According to medieval philosophers this evil was just a simple privation like the center of a donut. In the beginning of Leibniz’s philosophical career he rejected the Holiness Problem. He would argue that God is the author of everything in this world including the privations such as evil. Leibniz uses a painter to illustrate this concept, “to say that the painter is the author of all that is real in the two paintings, without however being the author of what is lacking or the disproportion between the larger and the smaller painting…. In effect, what is lacking is nothing more than a simple result of an infallible consequence of which is positive, without any need for a distinct author”(Leibniz 150).
With this mindset Leibniz begins to answer the Holiness Problem with a different strategy. He suggests that God isn’t the author of evil rather he merely permits evil to exist. However, it needs to be said that God will only permit evil to exist if and only if the permission of evil is necessary in order to meet one’s moral obligations (Murray)....